September 23, 2023
I Tried To Turn A Smartphone Into An Infotainment Display.  it didn't work

I often use previous automobiles as a result of they’re reasonably priced. Nonetheless, they lack options like GPS navigation and the flexibility to play trendy media. So I took it upon myself to combine a smartphone into my dashboard, considering it will be the proper answer to this drawback. Apparently, utilizing only a telephone or pill as a substitute of an infotainment display screen does not work as easily as you would possibly count on. No surprise why the app hasn’t been stored within the mainstream. Now I do know this from first hand expertise.

I’ve by no means been a fan of automotive infotainment techniques. They’re often sluggish, jerky, and ugly to have a look at. On the subject of GPS navigation and media, the typical smartphone is rather more succesful. They get common software program updates over the web, so they’re much extra up-to-date than most automobile screens. Additionally they have rather more highly effective processors and higher screens in addition.

Even in trendy automobiles, I all the time discovered myself utilizing my smartphone by way of the interior navigation. Usually I’d use the infotainment system as a Bluetooth stereo, controlling the media and navigation on my telephone. Given the recognition of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, I might guess most trendy automobile homeowners do one thing comparable. However after I get My 1998 Mercedes E240, I made a decision to attempt to combine a smartphone into the entrance panel semi-permanently. I wished a DIY infotainment answer that regarded quick, responsive, and clear. Sadly, my construct was sluggish, sluggish, and a bit messy.

That is how all the pieces went.

Design Part

I researched numerous concepts for mounting the telephone. The main candidate was a 3D-printed enclosure that may conceal the telephone underneath a retractable panel subsequent to the derailleur. However different tasks stored me busy and I wished to do one thing enjoyable, fast and straightforward. This authentic plan would take important improvement time that I used to be not prepared to spend. As a substitute, I selected to strive my concept in a less complicated approach at first. I took a magnetic smartphone mount and utilized it to the highest of the entrance panel. I then inserted a steel disk into the again of a Samsung Galaxy S10. This allowed me to strive the telephone in each portrait and panorama orientation. It nonetheless regarded fairly plain and positioned the display screen in a great place for straightforward visibility. There is a motive you see so many individuals strolling round with these telephone slots.

Subsequent I wanted a option to energy the telephone. I purchased a wi-fi telephone charging pad with two USB outputs and inserted it into one of many compartment holes on the entrance panel. I wired it to the again of the cigarette lighter so it will have a 12 volt provide with the ignition on. I then linked a charging cable to the pad to energy the telephone. I curled up behind the radio and got here out by way of a skinny gap I had drilled within the high of the sprint. The opening was in a detachable plastic panel, so I believed I might exchange this panel if I wished to undo what I did.

For greatest performance, the smartphone wanted an Web connection. Connecting it to my important telephone can be very hectic each time I get within the automobile. As a substitute, I made a decision to pay for an additional SIM card that shares my important account’s knowledge allowance. For as little as $15 a month, the automobile smartphone could have its personal always-on 4G knowledge connection. This might be very best for accessing maps and music on the go.

Fortuitously, I had already hacked a Bluetooth audio jack into the stereo. All I needed to do was press the Bluetooth button and I might hearken to music or get voice navigation alerts from the telephone. I’d by no means do the latter although, as a result of they all the time annoy me after they reduce the music.


Glad I went with a simple construct. It allowed me to rapidly check the system and work out what labored and what did not.

what labored

The essential setup got here collectively rapidly and labored as you’d count on. The telephone sat properly within the higher middle of the sprint and was simply inside arm’s attain. In fact, Australian guidelines of the highway weren’t about tapping it on the go, but it surely was a strong setup for getting into addresses and music choices when stopped.

The USB charging setup additionally apparently labored. With the USB-C cable dangling from the entrance panel and plugging into the telephone, it did not look too unhealthy total. Oddly sufficient, I did not have any points with glare or visibility both. The telephone was vivid sufficient to be learn and the solar did not trigger any issues with the mounting location I selected.

The telephone interface is surprisingly greatest in portrait orientation. I nonetheless use the setup recurrently for music playback and searching, however not on a everlasting setup.

Nonetheless, most of what shocked and disenchanted me didn’t work.

What did not work

My first headache was unlocking the telephone. As soon as upon a time, it was very straightforward to configure an Android telephone to unlock within the presence of a selected Bluetooth system. This was particularly designed to permit a telephone to stay unlocked in a automobile, for instance. Nonetheless, irrespective of how laborious I attempted, I could not get this to work as a consequence of subsequent safety updates. Nowadays, as soon as the telephone is linked to the Bluetooth system, it needs to be unlocked manually with a fingerprint or PIN. Then it can (often) keep unlocked for the remainder of the drive.

This was nonetheless extremely annoying. I used to be by no means involved with manually unlocking the telephone each time I bought within the automobile. That is an annoying hurdle that common infotainment techniques haven’t got. I used to be capable of get round this by utilizing a distinct telephone with facial recognition to unlock. It might nonetheless be messy; ideally, I wished the telephone to remain unlocked whereas the automobile was on. Heck, even when it is turned off! What do I care? I locked my doorways! There is likely to be a bizarre Android hack to get round this. Nonetheless, in case you are not conversant in the finer factors of the Android working system, working harmful hacks discovered on-line can put your telephone at risk.

I hoped the telephone would keep unlocked when linked to Bluetooth, however Google has made this largely unattainable on trendy Android working techniques. Lewin Day

Voice management whereas driving is de facto cool. It permits you to navigate safely, kind songs and even ship easy messages with out taking your consideration off the highway. It labored nice after I bought my Google Nexus 5X six years in the past. I might even say “Hey Googz” with my Australian accent and he would hear me each time. I bought into the behavior of scheduling conferences and reminders out loud and fell in love with this function.

If it does not work, it sucks. The present period of Google Assistant offers me a headache. One thing has modified in the previous few years as a result of I can not run greater than 30% of the time. Examples of a few of Google’s flaws on this space included by chance texting my ex “I bought the crackers, I bought the crackers” whereas making an attempt to message another person a few purely cheese plate. Fortuitously, they didn’t reply.

I had thought-about inserting the telephone within the decrease a part of the sprint, however I believed wanting down whereas driving would not be nice for a navigation display screen. Lewin Day

The telephone’s software program wasn’t nice for automotive use both. First I attempted utilizing Android Auto for Cellphone Screens. This mainly supplied an Android Auto interface, however on the telephone itself somewhat than a paired infotainment display screen. It was jerky as hell and hit laborious. It was working as an app sitting on the bottom Android OS, however after I tried to do something with it it will open and shut steadily and struggle the lock display screen.

Google has since deprecated this software program and as a substitute launched Google Assistant driving mode. It was barely higher, however restricted to portrait orientation solely. It did not actually assist with any of the display screen lock points anyway, so it was all a little bit of a controversial subject. You possibly can set the drive mode to robotically begin when the telephone is linked to your automobile’s Bluetooth system, however I discovered this unreliable at greatest. Google has since pissed off this software program as properly – suggesting that it does not belief the thought both.

Battery life was additionally a stunning concern. I believed it will final fairly a very long time in standby mode if I am not utilizing the smartphone. Nonetheless, if I did not drive for a couple of days, I’d come again usually and discover the telephone fully flat. I must manually flip it again on after charging for some time.

But overheating was maybe probably the most stunning drawback. Within the mid-’70s fall temperatures, the greenhouse impact in my automobile was sufficient to overheat the telephone. At greatest, I might go in and it will be displaying a warning. Subsequent, I must look forward to the air conditioner to chill sufficient inside for the telephone to reply. Worst of all, it will shut down fully. Then I must wait even longer for it to return again to life. I had positioned the telephone mount close to a vent. This was good for protecting cool. Nonetheless, if the HVAC is about to heat, the telephone will begin to decelerate as a result of warmth. I often depart the vent off to keep away from this drawback.

Different choices

There are different options. If my automobile had a double DIN slot for a radio, I might get an aftermarket stereo with wi-fi Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Sadly, I am caught in a single DIN slot. Worse nonetheless, it is immediately beneath the HVAC controls, so I can not simply use a kind of pop-up show fashions.

I can experiment additional with hacked Android variations that aren’t very safety aware in regards to the lock display screen. Nonetheless, I’d nonetheless face different issues. The battery life concern may be resolved if I’m prepared to depart the telephone charger working even with the ignition off. That will be advantageous so long as I’ve a robust battery and drive the automobile a minimum of twice every week. The overheating concern sounds fairly tough although. Fall was unhealthy sufficient, and Australia’s summers recurrently exceed 110 levels Fahrenheit, particularly within the northern areas.


Apparently, there are explanation why smartphones aren’t actually designed as automotive infotainment shows. There is no such thing as a easy option to make it activate robotically when the ignition is turned on or off when the car is turned off. Cybersecurity issues imply that trendy telephones aren’t too chilly about unlocking or being unlocked both.

There are methods round these issues. Most of them contain heavy-duty hacking of the Android working system, greater than I’ve struggled with for the sake of this little experiment. Plus, this usually comes with the warning of dropping entry to common app and safety updates. This removes the advantage of common on-line updates.

I am not the primary to set foot on this highway, and I will not be the final. Others are additionally prone to be extra profitable. Perhaps there may be! I’d love to listen to any details about what I missed or what I did flawed. If there is a approach to do that properly, I might be very prepared to strive it. Within the meantime, I will use my common smartphone in a detachable dock to navigate and pump tunes when wanted. It isn’t that neat or built-in, however for now it is bought me going.

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